Alleged deals with celebrity raise questions about prosecution

By Suk Gee-hyun
  • Published : Jan 16, 2014 - 20:30
  • Updated : Jan 16, 2014 - 20:30
A corruption scandal surrounding a prosecutor is putting a fresh spotlight on the problems facing South Korea’s prosecution.

An arrest warrant was issued for a prosecutor identified by his last name Jeon on Wednesday for allegedly making unlawful deals with a defendant in a drug abuse case in 2011.

The latest scandal marks another major setback for the powerful organization after its chief’s resignation over accusations he had a love child and a string of bribery cases damaged its public image.

On Monday, the prosecution questioned Jeon to confirm whether he violated rules by threatening a plastic surgeon who operated on actress Lee Yoon-ji.

Jeon met Lee when he was prosecuting her case regarding abuse of the psychotropic drug propofol in 2011. The defendant, better known as Amy, was sentenced to prison and released on probation two months later.

According to the prosecution, Lee allegedly complained about the side effects of the cosmetic surgery she underwent in early 2011.

Jeon reportedly volunteered to become a “troubleshooter” for Lee by pressuring the plastic surgeon to redo the surgery free of charge and give 15 million won in compensation for the side effects.

Prosecutors said Jeon claimed he helped the celebrity “out of good will.”

The investigators will focus on possible unlawful deals between the prosecutor and the surgeon, who was summoned once during the drug investigation.

They will also focus on finding out the extent Jeon and Lee’s relationship. Investigators said they found that Jeon transferred 100 million won to Lee’s account. The purpose of the transfer remains to be questioned.

The prosecutor’s alleged crime was found while the agency was investigating the surgeon earlier this week. The surgeon is currently accused of raping a woman after injecting her with propofol last year.

The prosecution was been hit by a series of scandals over recent years. In November 2012, prosecutor Kim Gwang-joon was convicted of taking bribes totaling about 1 billion won ($940,000) from people in exchange for clearing their cases. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

In 2010, a prosecutor was accused of receiving bribes ― a sedan and 16 million won in cash ― from a construction contractor to peddle his influence in a lawsuit.

A similar case was revealed a year later, when a female prosecutor received a luxury sedan and designer’s bag from a lawyer who asked that she consider the lawsuit in his favor.

Observers said that the latest investigation involving a celebrity is being conducted unusually fast compared to other investigations of similar gravity.

The quick handling of the case came after Prosecutor General Kim Jin-tae vowed to “clean up” the organization. Kim took office only about 40 days ago. In his inauguration speech, Kim said that morality and discipline should be restored at the prosecution.

The latest corruption case may shed light on how Kim will follow his words with action in reforming the prosecution, observers said.

By Suk Gee-hyun (